Phil Spotswood is a queer poet living in Louisiana. His most recent work can be found in tenderness, yea, Five:2:One, and Tagvverk. He is the recipient of the 2017 William Jay Smith MFA Poetry Award judged by Daniel Borzutzky, and co-edits Cartridge Lit.

Five Elegies for St. Joseph

Dear white lily, I want
the suck of your roots
to stream back into your skull
with the force of a turbine
run by rats

Shitstorm guzzler,
rapture the membrane
tension with polyphonic verb!

Rip the cradle from the crotch,
dear, set it as tender undulation
                              &                 maxim meltdown
                                                  urethra explosion in a sealed-off pit

What cell mass
could drip to           into                     what
faint halos could stich themselves
outward                   into                     scuttle & grope

The circle breaks, dear lily,
you just have to bend it looping                     over

                                                                        & over


Yesterday was shirtless
running pale & limp

                              at the top of a hill
                              I drifted off with another
                              into compression jelly, glutton chop
                              invisibilia :                 two bodies
                              disappearing,             me continuing

down the hill;                     learned survival
magic, cheap

          watch me binge & burn
          every man a vapor bloat

Show me false
integrity, the kind
that ruptures, doesn’t swallow
                                    every face it sees
but learns to                   sway and give

                                        Dear threshold historia,
                                        every word, every poem I write
                                        is a stand-in for the next;

                                                  what will it take to break you
                                                  into pink confetti

          Yesterday is pitched
          nighttime running toward car headlights
          ascending my downward slope,
          moment grown luminous before me

                    Welcome holy verve, it’s mile thirteen
                    & every pore is tilted to collapse


after The Nativity by Guido de Siena

The mountain’s anus is a burrowing capsule of the sky
and I can’t sit by w/ you, wistful obscurant,
as morning slicks its way into the cradle

If proximity to a womb is all
it takes to retch a timeline
then I want to tune every           orifice
                              to the inexplicable sound
                              of termite fever

If I bathe you red
could your corpse molten
                              & sickly transmogrify
                              the cave, sky, bull dung & white ibis
                              into ersatz oscillation–


Dear figure skulking around
the corner, tell me who it is
you’re meeting behind
the dumpster;                     I want           your post-
vision,                                 post-aureole pop
to shake         the whole
          damn frame

Whatever dewy ghost
told you to keep quiet & permeate
as slow chains of absence
never drifted through
a crowded street linking
crowded streets           & the red
          of extending           bodies


after The Marriage of the Virgin by Raphael

Dear computation spurted
from the mouth
of a digital sky

The eye of the temple is hollow
a golden path
sloping mountainside to you, barefoot
& poised               or impaled
                              ramrod           flower-burst

This valley a circuit threatened
w/ red pulse buckled–

                              cloistered coin
                              splintered youth
                              or muted dowry slowly

                                        filling a face w/ placid water

Dear reluctance caught
in fractal virtue, how to code
you out of this, dismember
avenue airway veins
& set you all afloat–       nonchalant
                                        chalice chatter
                                        shattered rim
                                        & bulge of gold


                              unstitched balcony flow down
                              counter-current malformation


                                        every face

                                          of christ           splattered

                              rent                     red                     red


I’m breathing
                    normal again, though
                    normal airways circumnavigate
a mountain-shaped depression
in the lungs, rooting
the gut, till the tar           issues back, apex hierarchy
                                        down the throat & colors you

                                        my hackneyed valentine

          I want to break the word,
          snap its neck & the stalks of everything           it burgeons
          rip out the spine of time
          that grew this tumor,                     no calculation,
          just a volatile fling that arcs &
          extends a distance,                       never lands

But it would founder
my body, also, & I’m not ready
to leave,       still have
                    small performances to alter,
                    strangers to meet

& maybe it’s not destruction,
total, because really what a
sham, nothingness,
but a folding into, so
that I can finally live
with the terrorock
              & you,         who never had
              a choice,       either

Dear mountain-seat,
stay where you are, please
it’s time to
examine your tendons & suggest
                                        soft salt                       breakdowns
                                        tearings to slip           notes
                                        on a mutiny in;
the plan
is to introduce your cells with desire                     for everyone else
                                                            in the room

                              terraforming puddles of liquid crystal filth